Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to the County Lieutenants of Henrico and Certain Other Counties, 5 May 1781

To the County Lieutenants of Henrico and Certain Other Counties

Richmond May 5th. 1781.


The Executive, having determined that future Tours of Militia Duty should be of two months length after joining the Army, had called in a proper Complement to serve from the 1st. Day of May to the last Day of June; proposing by that Time to relieve the whole by calling in others: The military officers have however represented that it will be more eligible to change one half monthly, than the whole at the end of every two months, which we have accordingly concluded to do. Some irregularity will arise on our getting out of one method into the other, as half of those meant for the months of May and June must either be discharged the last of May or kept till the last of July. We think the former preferable. I am therefore to inform you that the Militia of your County last ordered into Service will be discharged the last Day of the Month, and to desire that you have a Relief from your County of the same number, that is to say 1 men actually with the Army by that Day, to continue in Service two Months. Any six Months Men whom [you] shall send with them may be accounted in part of the number. You will do well to point out immediately the Individuals who are to come, and notify them of it, that they may have Time to arrange their domestic Affairs, and to equip themselves lest the full Quota should fail to march, warn in a number sufficiently larger, that the Deficiency may be made up on the Spot. Should this occasion the meeting of a greater number than you want, you can easily discharge the Supernumeraries.

Cavalry in a due proportion [&c. as in the preceding Letter to the County Lieutenants of Lunenburg and others.]2 I am &c.,

Thomas Jefferson

FC (Vi); at head of text: “County Lieutenants of Henrico, Goochland, Louisa, Caroline, Fluvanna, Albemarle & Shenandoah.”

The executive … had called in a proper complement: See TJ’s letter to the county lieutenants of Fauquier, &c., 14 Apr. 1781, in which was set forth the policy superseded by the present and subsequent communications.

1At the foot of the text in FC there is the following list of numbers to be inserted in each letter at this point: “Henrico 145, Goochland 129, Louisa 140, Caroline 245, Fluvanna 70, Albemarle 204, Shenandoah 217.”

2Brackets supplied. The paragraph intended to be added here appears in TJ’s letter to the county lieutenants of Lunenburg, &c., dated 8 May 1781, which, although it has a later date, is entered in the Letter Book ahead of the present letter. A plausible explanation is offered by H. R. McIlwaine to account for the presence of this paragraph concerning cavalry: “… the clerk failed to copy this letter of the 5th into the letter book until several days later, when he was copying the large number to county lieutenants dated the 8th, into which had to be inserted this paragraph in reference to the cavalry, and that he mechanically put it in this letter also” (Official Letters description begins Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia, ed. H. R. McIlwaine description ends , ii, 505). This is probably what happened, and McIlwaine was only making a just observation when he added: “This clerk was not absolutely careful, and he did not clean up his work each day. He apparently copied the letters into the letter book as opportunity offered. Considering this practice and the general excitement and commotion of the times, it is not strange that this letter book—as was the case with its predecessor—should have in it many palpable errors and lie under suspicion of containing others.”

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